Voice of the Faithful
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Voice of the Faithful FAQs

Q. Who is Voice of the Faithful?

A. Voice of the Faithful is a lay organization formed in January, 2002, in response to the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church. The organization began as a "listening session" of 30 parishioners in the basement at St. John the Evangelist church in Wellesley, Massachusetts. Just a few months later, Voice of the Faithful has over 25,000 registered supporters throughout 40 U.S. states and 21 countries worldwide, as well as more than 150 Parish Voice affiliates. The organization's exponential growth has been fueled by the communication opportunities of the VOTF Web site and by the crying need for dialogue and change felt among mainstream Catholics across America and throughout the world.

VOTF is keenly aware of the importance of building bridges to restore trust between the laity and the hierarchy. We are committed to working within the Church, with active lay involvement in the governance of temporal affairs — including finances, personnel and administration. We do not seek to change Church dogma. We seek to build up the Church, not tear it down.

VOTF is committed to providing a safe forum where all Catholics, whatever their views on specific issues, can participate in a conversation about the challenges of our church. Some call this a "centrist view." We call it that, too; we also call it "inclusive" in imitatio christi, and seek to present this model to the Church hierarchy as an alternative to their culture of secrecy, deceit and arrogance.

Q. What is Voice of the Faithful's mission?

A. Our mission is "to provide a prayerful voice, attentive to the Spirit, through which the Faithful can actively participate in the governance and guidance of the Catholic Church."

Q. What are Voice of the Faithful's goals?

A. Our goals are:

  1. To support victim/survivors of clergy sexual abuse

  2. To support priests of integrity

  3. To shape structural change within the Catholic Church

Q. What does Voice of the Faithful mean by supporting survivors?

A. In this time of crisis and betrayal, all Catholics are in pain. But none are feeling this pain more acutely than the survivors of clergy sexual abuse themselves. Survivors have told Voice of the Faithful that this is a time when it is utterly important to be present for survivors; to listen; to raise awareness; and to provide a safe forum for survivors to tell their stories and express their feelings publicly as a first step to truth, reconciliation and healing. We are supporting survivors through listening sessions, healing masses, prayer, fund-raising, monitoring of bishops, self-education and public witness. Voice of the Faithful supports victim/survivors within the parameters of a healthy relationship with our Catholicism and the primacy of own consciences.

Q. What does Voice of the Faithful mean by supporting priests of integrity?

A. As we all know, the overwhelming majority of Catholic priests are faithful to their vocation and vows, living lives of genuine holiness and service. Faithful priests are currently suffering personal pain and public humiliation from the heinous acts of their offending brother priests and their own superiors. Voice of the Faithful is building bridges to these priests — who in many cases are our pastors, our confidants, our teachers, and our friends. We are reaching out to priests both as individuals and through their own budding organizations, which are struggling to find their voice. We pray that our vocal support for priests of integrity — who are frequently oppressed, silenced and intimidated — will help them ultimately to stand in their truth and "be not afraid."

Q. Why does Voice of the Faithful feel entitled to claim a place at the table for the laity in the governance and guidance of the Catholic Church?

A. The wise and eloquent documents of Vatican II provide a very clear mandate for the laity's right — and, indeed, responsibility — to become active in the guidance of the Church as "the people of God."

In addition, simple morality cries out for the laity to become involved, to right the grievous wrong that has afflicted our Church. The hierarchy that failed to protect our children cannot be trusted to continue exercising unchecked control over the persons, property, money and fate of our church. VOTF believes that baptized Catholics must, as a matter of conscience, assert our right and responsibility to participate in the decision-making processes of the whole Catholic Church.

Q. What does Voice of the Faithful feel will be the effect of bringing laity into the governance structure of the Church?

A. The Church hierarchy can learn much from the Catholic laity. We have intellectual, emotional and spiritual contributions to make and knowledge to impart on myriad real-life issues. These include, but are not limited to: human sexuality, women's rights, democratic processes, and the contextual roles of science and history in the healthy life of the Church.

Q. Does Voice of the Faithful have a hidden or open "agenda"?

A. Voice of the Faithful does not have a hidden "liberal" or "conservative" agenda for Church reform. This would be impossible, since our members hold a diverse representation of views.

We do, however, have an agenda for change. The crisis in our Church shapes our conviction that the Catholic laity must stand up and force change of the clerical culture of secrecy, deceit, arrogance and abuse of power that have brought us to this shameful pass.

Q. Is Voice of the Faithful schismatic or heretical?

A. No. Voice of the Faithful is firmly committed to bringing about meaningful reform from within the Catholic Church. We have no intention of, or desire to, found a new church.

We are also in no way heretical. We have no interest in challenging Church dogma. We stake our claim to participation in the governance and guidance of the Church based on the clear teachings of the Second Vatican Council.

Q. Does Voice of the Faithful feel that dialogue with the U.S. bishops is worthwhile? Are you seeking such dialogue? Under what terms?

A. VOTF wishes to engage our bishops in dialogue, but we will not negotiate regarding: " Our right to exist " Our right to be heard " Our right to free speech as American Catholics

Furthermore, we feel that, in the interest of morality and justice, bishops must be held accountable for their past behavior. Bishops who covered up criminal acts must be held accountable. No bishop should be allowed to stay in office if it is shown that he engaged in the intentional misrepresentation of facts regarding sexual abuse.

In addition, we feel that it is necessary, but not sufficient, for bishops merely to state that practices will change in the future. We expect the bishops to vigorously enforce their commitments, including proactive cooperation with civil authorities to create a system that protects the public.

Q. Does Voice of the Faithful think that trust can be restored between the Catholic laity and its leadership? If yes, how?

A. We expect that American bishops now recognize that they face a new burden of proof. No longer can the bishops demand our trust without earning it. We want to work with the bishops, but to earn back our trust, they must demonstrate that they deserve that trust.

The laity must continually review and monitor the performance of bishops. VOTF has developed a Bishop Monitoring System that rates how effectively each diocese is meeting publicly stated commitments. This system can be adapted for parishes, financial management, pastoral achievements, and engagement with the laity.

Q. How does Voice of the Faithful intend to succeed?

A. Voice of the Faithful intends to build an effective chapter in every parish throughout the world. We are even now creating vibrant models of local action through our "Parish Voices" initiative.

We will create a national Voice of the Faithful operation to bring about our growth with learning materials, training programs and a Speakers' Bureau of experienced members. In true apostolic tradition, members will become Voice of the Faithful emissaries for future development. Their efforts will help Voice to evolve from a "virtual" organization to a permanent, influential entity.

We will develop and foster a deeper understanding of our faith; of the institutional church; of canon law; of Vatican II. We are organizing study groups in local Voice chapters, as well as nationally, to examine the adequacy of enforcement procedures, to study issues such as the meaning of "structural change," and to design various forms of lay involvement.

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Voice of the Faithful is recognized as one of the most promising lay organizations to evolve in the Catholic Church. Your support is absolutely necessary for us to continue. The online donation form and the mail in donation form are both quick and easy ways for you to participate, and we are most grateful. (VOTF is a 501(c)3 tax-exempt organization. )

Mission Statement

To provide a prayerful voice, attentive to the Spirit, through which the Faithful can actively participate in the governance and guidance of the Catholic Church.


Our Goals

1. To support survivors of clergy sexual abuse.

2. To support priests of integrity

3.To shape structural change within the Catholic Church.

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Pray Each Day
at Noon

Jesus, Lord and Brother, help us with our faithfulness. Please hear our voice, and let our voice be heard. Amen. More



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